I’m really not big on being late (or having to wait for that matter). I was brought up respecting other people’s time and in turn, mine. I generally arrive early or worst case on time; for both personal and business appointments especially when it’s something I really want to do. So – when Honda invited me to the Hampton Downs track to try out their new Civic’s my first impulse was to head there immediately (several days early).
Having now been to quite a few track day launches, I am fully aware of the amount of preparation that goes into their organisation and what is normally in store – they are awesome. They usually consist of slaloms, ABS braking tests, handling tips, off the mark launches and undoubtedly a slap up feed. Plus, being on a track it makes it a good place to put the car through its paces in a ‘controlled’ environment; without the need to worry about petty things like speed limits or attention getting tyre squeals.
However, on the day in question; fate (or in actual fact Air NZ) was against me – with an international flight cancellation (due to a plane fault) I was forced to catch a flight early the next day which in turn made me VERY late for the track.
Suitably miffed at the prospect of missing out I decided to head to the Honda Civic event regardless and inevitably found that most of the day’s exercises (and indeed lunch) were in fact over – Sad face. BUT my despair was short lived, as being late had opened a new opportunity – Honda hadn’t started packing up; so what was left was all four new Civic models and an empty track to play on – yeehaa.
I ran through each of the 4 models and 2 drivetrains in turn, from the naturally aspirated 1.8L to the 1.5L VTEC Turbo – starting with the 1.8L Civic S. As I hopped into the driver’s seat and adjusted the position, the weather started to drizzle – this was going to be fun.
This is the 10th generation of the much loved Civic and I must say Honda have done a great job. It’s been totally redesigned and it has a new elegance about it that is reminiscent of the Accord. It feels bigger too, more room and space on the inside and more road presence on the outside. I could go more into this but to be honest, time was ticking on and I will get some one on one time with it later in the month – so bring on the track.
I’m pretty ofay with Hampton’s now so I eagerly exited the pits and sped down to turn 2. I wasn’t expecting too much from the S and I’m pleased to report I was wrong. The 1.8L engine served up 104kw at 6500rpm and 174Nm of torque at 4300rpm, this combined with the CVT box meant that my first right hander came up fast, but nothing that the S couldn’t handle. The steering is tight and responsive and the sharp turn in saw me heading off to the S bends with ease. The track still had the slalom laid out on the main straight heading away from the stands, so I felt it would be rude not to weave through them. The S danced through quicker and more controlled than I expected and although I took out the second cone it easily got into rhythm and completed the course well. I rounded the long right hander at a comfortable 80+kph and then tried out the ABS braking test still there on the home straight – stamping hard on the brakes at 80 and not a hint of step out. Same thing next lap but faster – no cones were hit on the slalom and 120kph braking had the same result – not a twitch!
Into the pits and a car change to the Civic Turbo. The all new 1.5L VTEC Turbo, has a direct injected and inline 4 cylinder engine with variable valve timing electronic control (VVTC) and a high response turbocharger with electronic wastegate, it produces127kW of power at 5500 rpm and 220Nm of torque from as low as 1700rpm right up to 5500rpm. The Turbo is sweet and (as the numbers show) immediately responsive. It takes the car quickly up the revs and again turn 2 came up rapidly. Now I’m not saying that the turbo (or the NT that I jumped into next) are ‘track ready’ cars but they happily handled the little bit of abuse I gave them.
Last up was the RS, with its sporty and distinctive RS styling and an integrated body kit (Black Grille, Rear Sports Spoiler, exclusive 17” RS Alloy Wheels, dark Chrome Door Handles, LED Headlights, LED Fog Lights, Sunroof and RS badging). It has the same 1.5L VTEC turbo engine but being RS meant that I inevitably had to drive it faster!
I bypassed some of the exercises and opted just to speed around the track. The RS offers up the fun element I’d hoped for, particularly around the long right hand turn before the home straight – in the wet track conditions it gave me a bit of understeer but even at around 110kph+ not enough to be in the slightest bit worried.
A warm down lap and back to the pits – play time over.
The new Civic is well balanced, quick and stylish. Even from the brief time I had behind the wheel it’s evident it can handle most of what general day to day driving can throw at it. There are plenty of spec options to keep you happy and then there’s the RS version to satisfy your racing car cravings. I’m looking forward to getting to know the Civic in more detail – and this time I won’t be late (regardless of how well it all turned out)!
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